Alcohol and Memory Loss: Recognizing the Signs and Seeking Help

Research consistently demonstrates that abstaining from alcohol can halt further cognitive decline and help restore some lost memories. Achieving this requires a holistic approach to alcohol abuse treatment. Seeking professional help is crucial for overcoming substance abuse and reclaiming your life.

Heavy alcohol consumption, even if only in the form of binge drinking, has serious negative health consequences. This is due to the fact that alcohol impacts and damages the brain, causing cognitive issues for the drinker. Alcohol and memory loss are, therefore, known to go together and are not a topic to ignore. Prolonged alcohol abuse can cause dementia-like changes, impair the ability to make new memories, and overall cause a cognitive decline.

Unlike dementia, these changes are not progressive, and addressing alcoholism on time is essential for damage prevention and management. We Level Up Texas, with its alcohol abuse treatment, can support anyone struggling with alcohol abuse and memory loss, assist them in reclaiming their lives, and help them live to their full potential.

Understanding Alcohol and Memory Loss

Blackout is a popular term to describe temporary (either complete or partial) memory loss due to heavy and fast alcohol consumption. Memory loss refers to the time of consumption and does not affect previously formed memories, meaning the connection exists only between alcohol and short term memory loss. It´s more frequent among social drinkers, meaning people who occasionally, in social situations, drink or binge drink.

As the consumption of alcohol increases, the impairment of memory is greater. Those who chronically consume alcohol are facing the possibility of long-term memory loss as well. This is because prolonged and intense alcohol consumption causes alcohol-related brain damage that can take different forms. For some people, it impairs the ability to form new memories, and for others, it can impact already existing long-term memories. 

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The mechanism explaining the connection between memory loss and alcohol is related to the function of a brain center called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for translating short-term memory into long-term memory. Not being able to function properly means that transition never happens, and long-term memories of an event, face, or conversation are never formed. 

When it comes to affecting already existing memories, alcoholism can result in alcohol-related dementia. People suffering from it would have difficulties remembering people or events from their past. As mentioned before, unlike in the case of non-alcohol-related dementia, some level of repair is possible, but a person needs to stop drinking and commit to an alcohol rehab program.

A man experiencing the negative connection between alcohol and memory loss.
Memory loss and alcohol abuse often go hand-in-hand.

Recognizing the Signs of Memory Loss Due to Alcohol

Everyone gets forgetful at times. We might be tired, sleep-deprived, or under a lot of stress. If you can link your inability to remember things to any of these circumstances, you are probably not facing alcohol-related memory loss. Not being able to remember things shortly after drinking can already be a sign of alarm, but pay attention to these common symptoms of the bond between alcohol abuse and memory loss:

  • You’ve been told that you talked to someone recently, but you can’t remember having the conversation.
  • You are frequently confused or disoriented about where you are.
  • You are experiencing problems paying attention.
  • People often tell you about things you did while drinking that you can’t remember.
  • You’ve gotten into trouble with loved ones or the law while drinking, but you can’t fully remember your actions.

These are usually signs of short-term memory loss, while the connections between long-term memory loss and alcohol may present themselves, like:

  • Making up small stories to fill the gaps in the memory of past events.
  • Experiencing some personality changes, such as being more frustrated or more frequently angry. 
  • Frequently asking the same question and not remembering asking it before.
  • Having difficulties learning new things or acquiring a new skill. 

If you catch yourself or a loved one showing any of these signs, it might be time to look for an alcohol rehab facility in Texas for professional help.

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The Impact of Alcohol Abuse on Cognitive Functioning

The negative connection between alcoholism and memory loss is not the only impairment due to heavy alcohol consumption. Other than on memory, alcohol abuse has a negative impact on other aspects of cognition, like one´s ability to think, concentrate, and make sound decisions. Research suggests that prolonged alcohol consumption leads to both structural and functional brain changes and affects not only memory but also executive functioning.

It´s important to notice that although heavy alcohol consumption affects cognitive functioning more strongly, even moderate drinking can result in some cognitive impairment. Another thing to keep in mind is that, just as with memory functions, cognitive functions can be restored with abstinence from alcohol and a comprehensive treatment for alcoholism.

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Seeking Help for Alcohol and Memory Loss

Alcoholism and memory loss due to it are quite common, but the good news is that with proper alcohol abuse treatment, a person gets to recover their cognitive functioning, stop cognitive decline, and, to an extent, retrieve memories lost. A program for treating alcohol abuse ought to be comprehensive and tailored to the specific needs of each client. 

The first step should be an alcohol detox in Texas. This step is medically assisted if conducted as a part of an inpatient rehab program at We Level Up Texas. By prescribing FDA-approved medicines, we are able to relieve withdrawal symptoms that are to take place soon after ceasing alcohol consumption. The goal of this stage of the rehab process is to cleanse your organism from alcohol and prepare you for the next steps that are focused on the psychological aspect of your alcohol abuse problem. 

Following detox, psychotherapy becomes important as it reveals the causes of alcoholism and addresses them with the goal of fighting the addiction. Evidence-based therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectic-behavioral therapy (DBT), deal with dysfunctional thinking patterns and their effect on maladaptive behaviors, such as alcohol consumption. While CBT helps establish new thinking and feeling patterns that are to result in a behavioral change, DBT helps find a balance between change and acceptance and aids in understanding that these two are not opposites but can co-exist. 

Additionally, family programs and support groups can be an empowerment tool as they equip a person with a supportive environment and a sense of belonging. Recreational therapy adds to the holistic approach as it enables the body to fight the negative consequences of alcohol abuse and positively affects one´s well-being. 

We also aim to teach you how to recognize alcohol and short term memory loss problems before they happen, how to prevent alcohol poisoning from taking place, and how to address memory loss and alcohol addiction at the same time. For this, we developed a dual-diagnosis treatment that simultaneously treats addiction and any co-occurring condition, including cognitive declines and memory loss issues. 

In addition to all this, We Level Up Texas provides additional services, such as the creation of aftercare plans to keep you on track long-term and help prevent future potential problems. Ongoing support and therapy are irreplaceable for the life-long struggle addicts are facing.

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Alcoholism and memory loss might be bad, but it´s not unrepeatable. A comprehensive We Level Up Texas program can help you recover and get back on track.

There is no doubt that alcohol consumption, whether moderate or heavy, has an impact on all cognitive functions, but most of all, memory. The link between alcoholism and memory loss is well investigated, not just in terms of consequences but also in terms of potential ways of restoring the pre-alcoholism state. Research consistently shows that abstinence from alcohol can stop further decline and retrieve some of the lost memories.

For this to happen, a holistic approach to alcohol abuse treatment is indispensable. Seeking professional help is essential for reclaiming your life from substance abuse, including alcohol. Get in touch with us at Level Up Texas and get free advice on how to tackle your alcohol abuse problem.

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Search We Level Up Texas for Alcohol and Memory Loss Topics & Resources

Sachdeva A, Chandra M, Choudhary M, Dayal P, Anand KS. Alcohol-Related Dementia and Neurocognitive Impairment: A Review Study. Int J High Risk Behav Addict. 2016 Feb 7;5(3):e27976. doi: 10.5812/ijhrba.27976. PMID: 27818965; PMCID: PMC5086415.

White AM. What happened? Alcohol, memory blackouts, and the brain. Alcohol Res Health. 2003;27(2):186-96. PMID: 15303630; PMCID: PMC6668891.